ANDERSON, Ind. — Midway through Monday’s afternoon practice, Andrew Luck let loose with a high, arcing pass down the left sideline.
Fellow rookie T.Y. Hilton settled under it perfectly in stride 35 to 40 yards downfield and would have cruised in for an 80-yard touchdown if the whistle hadn’t blown a few seconds later.
It’s safe to say the Indianapolis Colts’ new quarterback is beginning to find a groove with his teammates.
“It’s better every day,” Luck said of the timing with his receivers following the morning session at Anderson University. “Like I mentioned earlier, reps help so much and the more passes I can throw to Reggie
(Wayne) and (Austin) Collie and Donnie (Avery) and the tight ends and all the guys, the running backs, the better I’ll be.”
Center Samson Satele finds it hard to imagine the rookie signal-caller can get much better.
The 6-foot-3, 299-pound Samoan played his first five seasons with the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders, and he made it clear he’s never seen another quarterback like Luck.
“You watch, bro,” Satele said. “He’s crazy good. There’s nothing I can teach the man right now. I mean, he’s that great.”
As he does with most praise, Luck quickly deflected Satele’s comments.
“It’s nice, obviously, to get compliments from your teammates,” he said.
“I think he’s trying to build my confidence before the second practice, but it is nice to get compliments from him.”
If Satele was trying to pump up his quarterback, it worked.
Luck’s ultra sharp performance in the afternoon session included three touchdown passes and a nifty deep completion to Collie along the right sideline. Luck lofted another deep ball over a defensive back and into the arms of a leaping Donnie Avery later in the session.
It was one of Luck’s best performances in the deep passing game since he joined the Colts in April.
Head coach Chuck Pagano said deep passes in practice are good for both sides of the ball.
“You know what, they’ve hit them,” Pagano said. “He’s hit them. I saw a few that were miscues also that we could have made. So we’ll continue.
That’s always offensively and defensively. I know coaching (defensive
backs) for so many years and being on the defensive side of the ball, going into your first preseason game you’re always scared that you’re not going to get enough deep ball work on either side, the timing of it, the throwing and catching it and then defending it. So the more we can do out here, the better for both sides.”
Luck had two more potential touchdown passes batted down during a two-minute drill near the end of practice.
The first was a beautifully thrown ball deep into the right corner of the end zone intended for Avery. Cornerback Jerraud Powers closed on the play late and nearly made an amazing one-handed interception before knocking the pass to the ground.
Flashing back to his days as the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive coordinator, Pagano might have been the most excited person on the field after Powers’
“It’s everything I can do from going over there and rooting and cheering and high-fiving and all that stuff,” he said. “I’ve got to remember I’m right down the middle now so I can’t play favoritism, but it was a nice play.”
A few snaps later, on a desperation fourth-down attempt, Luck floated a pass into the middle of the end zone for Reggie Wayne. Safety Antoine Bethea arrived first and easily broke up the play.
“Obviously, you’re going to make some mistakes,” Luck said before taking the field in the afternoon. “Hopefully, we get better every practice. I know it’s very cliché, but I think it’s important to get better as a team.”